Michelle Obama pushed hard to get the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFK) passed by Congress in 2010. And it did pass. Who wants kids to be hungry?
The Act authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USAD) to revamp the nutritional criteria for public school lunches and expanded the free school lunch program. The USDA estimates it will cost $3.2 billion to completely implement the nutritional changes nationwide over a five-year span. The free lunch expansion increases the Federal government’s $11 billion annual allotment for lunch subsidies by more than $1 billion per year.
But as quickly as many public schools have begun adopting new standards that replace traditional menu offerings with things like “part of” a chicken patty on a little croissant and arugula pizza, they’ve often just as quickly abandoned the program.
Why? Because kids hate it, it’s too expensive for the schools, the lunches themselves cost more for paying students, and cafeterias are losing money as kids continue to resort to bringing lunch from home in order to stave off hunger and eat what they choose.
It was reported Tuesday that the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district in New York dropped the program after losing $100,000 implementing the new Federal menu, but it’s only the most recent district to have left Obama’s attempted food fiat in the dust. Schools in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas — pretty much everywhere, in other words — are either ditching the program or wrestling with angry students and parents in an effort to stay the course.
As with all nanny programs, the 850 calorie-maximum school lunch scheme is fraught with hypocrisy.
“The voluminous menu that’s good enough for the federal bureaucrats’ cafeteria should be good enough for our children’s school lunchroom,” said Senator Tim Huselkamp (R-Kan.), an ardent HHFK opponent, in April. “If USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack thinks the federal government should dictate what local governments put on their school lunchroom menus, why isn’t he leading by example? Secretary Vilsack should impose his ‘Nutrition Nanny’ standards on the USDA buildings’ cafeteria menus before the USDA seizes control of lunchroom menus in 100,000 school districts.”